, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 2887–2903 | Cite as

Products of low-temperature pyrolysis of nanocellulose esters and implications for the mechanism of thermal stabilization

  • Melissa B. Agustin
  • Fumiaki Nakatsubo
  • Hiroyuki Yano
Original Paper


Esterification was used to improve the thermal stability of nanocellulose to extend its application as reinforcing filler to polymer matrices with high melting point. The effect of the structure of ester groups on thermal stability was studied in detail. Various types of nanocellulose esters (straight-chain, C2–C14; cyclic adamantoyl, ADM; aromatic benzoyl, BNZ; and branched pivaloyl, PIV) with degree of substitution values in the range of 0.40–0.47 were prepared from bacterial cellulose nanofibers and nanocrystals. The reaction conditions used to prepare the esters maintained the viscosity-average degree of polymerization (DPv) and crystallinity of the starting materials. Thermogravimetric analysis showed that the temperature at maximum weight loss rate (Tmax) increased after esterification. The structure of the ester groups and the DPv, however, showed no varying effect on Tmax. The 5 % weight loss temperature (WLT) which was used to assess the thermal stability at the onset of thermal degradation varied with the type of ester. Lower 5 % WLT was observed in straight-chain esters than those of the bulky esters of ADM, BNZ and PIV; which also showed high resistance to weight loss when subjected to isothermal heating. To understand the event at the onset of thermal degradation, low temperature pyrolysis was conducted. The evolved gases were separated and identified by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry technique. Results showed that at the onset of thermal degradation, levoglucosan (LG) is produced from the untreated BC nanocrystals. After esterification, LG formation was inhibited. The removal of the ester groups or deprotection is the main event at the onset of thermal degradation of nanocellulose esters. From the structure of the pyrolysis products, the mechanism of thermal deprotection of nanocellulose esters is proposed for the first time.


Nanocellulose Thermal stability Low-temperature pyrolysis Esterification 



The scholarship grant from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan (Monbukagakusho) to Melissa B. Agustin is gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

10570_2016_1004_MOESM1_ESM.docx (56 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 56 kb)
10570_2016_1004_MOESM2_ESM.docx (926 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 926 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa B. Agustin
    • 1
  • Fumiaki Nakatsubo
    • 1
  • Hiroyuki Yano
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Institute for Sustainable HumanosphereKyoto UniversityGokasho, UjiJapan

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